- Review Date: 12/14/2012
- Bottom line: The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist (3347-4HU) ultrabook convertible is really a clamshell laptop convertible tablet like the ones that Lenovo has been making for the past half-dozen years. It's the natural evolution of the Tablet PC concept of the mid-2000s, in 2012 ultrabook form.
- Pros: Convertible tablet form factor. More storage than SSD-only convertibles. Both TrackPoint and trackpad. Good keyboard. Optional WWAN.
- Cons: Bulky. Only five touch points. Mini HDMI instead of full-size HDMI port.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist (3347-4HU) ($899.99 list) is an ultrabook convertible, with a swinging screen that can twist around to work part time as a tablet. It's centered around its bright 12.5-inch IPS screen, one that is easy on the eyes, and has a price tag that is comparable to the midrange ultrabooks with similar internal components. It's definitely made for those people who want to make extensive use the touch functions in Windows 8. That said, it's really a clamshell laptop convertible tablet like the ones that Lenovo has been making for the past half-dozen years. It's the natural evolution of the Tablet PC concept of the mid-2000s.
Design and Features
The ThinkPad Twist is essentially a thinner ultrabook version of the Lenovo ThinkPad x230t convertible laptop that the company has been producing for years. It uses magnesium alloy construction, a sealed battery, capacitive-only touch screen, and ultrabook-spec compenents to shrink down to a 0.79-inch thickness, with 12.5 by 9.5 inches as its other measurements. The whole shebang comes in at 3.37 pounds, which is about the same as the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (3.4 pounds) and imperceptibly heavier than the Dell XPS 12 (3.3 pounds). These systems all aim for the same segment of the touch-screen market: Ultrabook convertibles that also come with full-sized mechanical keyboards and pointing devices. It's fully useable as a clamshell ultrabook, but can twist around to become a slate, and function in other configurations as well.
The system's 12.5-inch IPS display twists around so it can be viewed as usual above the keyboard, or flipped all the way around so the system can work like a tablet. The screen can be viewed at all the angles that the Lenovo Yoga 13 can, plus all the orientations when you twist the screen around. That way you can view the screen easel style, like a screen without the keyboard below it, like a slate, or like a clamshell laptop. This trumps the Dell XPS 12 and Sony VAIO Duo 11, both of which have more limited angles where you can use them. The display has a 1,366 by 768 resolution, fine for 720p HD, but short of the 1,920-by-1,080 resolution needed for true 1080p videos. This isn't too much of a problem, as 1080p displays tend to show tiny text at screen sizes below 13 inches, as shown on the 11-inch Acer Iconia W700-6465 tablet. A slightly more prominent nit is that the touch screen only supports five points of touch. This is okay for most functions, but if you ever share the screen with another person or if you use both hands, there will be a point when the touch capacity of the screen is overtaxed. This will likely come up if you use the screen to type on a virtual keyboard or play virtual musical instruments.
As a small business system, Lenovo added both a single piece trackpad and their signature TrackPoint to the ThinkPad Twist's keyboard. The keyboard is the current Lenovo keyboard with curved chiclet-style keys that are very easy to type on. The single-piece trackpad has the mouse buttons built in, though there is a row of three mouse buttons (right, left, and center/scroll) below the space bar for the TrackPoint. The keyboard's function keys have icons on them, and work primarily according to those functions. For example, F1 is mute, F9 brings up the PC Settings, and F10 brings up Windows 8's search bar. This is a better use of the function keys. If you use a program that needs the traditional F1-F12 keys, you can use the Fn key.
The screen rotation key and the power button are on the side of the screen, and there is an extra set of volume control keys on the front of the screen bezel for use when the screen is in slate tablet mode. The sides of the chassis hold two USB 3.0 ports, a SIM card slot for the optional WWAN modem (not installed in our test system), a SD card reader, a mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet port, and a mini-HDMI port. Mini-HDMI is more of a problem than mini-DisplayPort, as min-HDMI adapters are harder to come by. The setup would have been more convenient with a full-size HDMI port.
The ThinkPad Twist comes with a small selection of added software, including apps like Evernote, Sktich, Amazon Kindle, Skype, eBay, and rara.com. Thankfully all of these apps are installed in the Windows 8 Start screen, and not in the system's desktop mode, where they would look cluttered. The system includes both the Windows Store and an Intel equivalent called Intel AppUp. You can also add other programs you download or install with an external optical drive ($79.99).
The ThinkPad Twist (3347-4HU) comes with a familiar processor: the Intel Core i5-3317U with integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. This is a very common processor in ultrabooks like the ThinkPad Twist. The system also comes with 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 24GB mSATA cache SSD, and a 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive for storage. The combo is good for passable numbers on FutureMark's PC Mark 7 benchmark test, though they trail the score put up by SSD-powered systems like the Acer W700 and the Lenovo Yoga 13, both of which share the Twist's Core i5 processor and 4GB of memory. The scores are closer on the CineBench graphics rendering test and the Photoshop CS6 test, but the ThinkPad Twist lagged a bit behind the others on the Handbrake video encode test, also because of the slower hard drive. That said, you'll have a lot more room on the Twist for that video, since the Twist has a 500GB drive, more than double or triple the space on the SSD-powered systems.
The ThinkPad Twist was more mediocre on the battery rundown test. It managed a middling 4 hours, 10 minutes while systems like the Acer W700 (6:34) and Dell XPS 12 (5:09) exceeded five hours. The ThinkPad Twist did beat the Sony Duo 11, which barely got three hours of battery life (3:09).
In summation, the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist excels at some things (keyboard, familiar layout, screen quality), yet is middling at others (battery life, weight, five-point touch). It lacks the ThinkPad X230t's included stylus and stylus support, so it's certainly not as capable as that Editors' Choice laptop. At this price point, the Editors' Choice for ultrabooks the Toshiba Portege Z935-P300 is still a better choice, since for the time being Windows 8 and it's touch functions aren't a must have for the small business. However, if you want to be ahead of the curve and start using Windows 8 for business or development, then the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist and its cousin the IdeaPad Yoga are decent choices. Try them both out at a big box store and see how they feel. Both have merits and drawbacks to their respective designs, but both work as clamshell laptops that can work part time as tablets.